More than four lakh migratory birds from Central Asia and Europe have arrived in Kashmir but these birds might be forced to look for other places during winters in the future.
This is all because of rising encroachments, waste disposal and noise pollution in the valley.
Some of the most sighted birds in the wetlands of Kashmir are Brahminy Duck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Garganey, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Red-Crested Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, and Eurasian Wigeon.
The birds — which feed on insects, worms and fish in these water bodies — present a mesmerizing picture, changing the color of the valley landscape amidst the onset of winter.
An official of wildlife department said that these winged visitors start arriving in the valley towards the first week of November, as Kashmir presents them a hospitable alternative home compared to the extreme freezing conditions in their natural habitats in Siberia, China, Japan and other countries in the northern hemisphere.
Wildlife warden (wetlands) Roauf Zargar said that they have recorded the arrival of over 3.5 lakh birds in the wetlands of Kashmir since November this year.
In the next couple of days, more birds are likely to arrive here as the temperature is expected to drop in some of the places where these birds come from.
According to Zargar, there has been no obvious effect of climate change on the number and species of birds arriving here but the worrying factor is the encroachments of the wetlands and the unscientific waste disposal around these ecosystems.
As a result, wetlands are shrinking leading to a drop in the number of the birds visiting Kashmir.
Another major cause of concern is the waste material coming from areas inhabited by humans around the wetlands.
“If the unscientific way of waste disposal continues, we will face major problems,” Zargar said.
Last year’s floods in Kashmir brought lots of problems for the wetland managers, but timely action ensured that the winged visitors did not miss their date with the valley.
The deluge of last year brought with it a layer of oil which settled over the water in the Hokersar wetland, causing enormous damage to the ecosystem of the wetland.
The wildlife staff had to drain out the water with oily layer before letting in fresh streams of water to ensure that the visiting birds do not face any difficulty in finding food.
Urbanization around these wetlands has led to noise pollution which is creating fear and disturbance among these birds.
“Noise of all kinds causes disturbance to the birds. This can lead to the birds finding alternate places to spend the winters in,” a wildlife manager said.
To tackle the threat of poaching, the department has set up squads to maintain vigil around the wetlands of Kashmir.
Officials have also arrested three poachers this season and seized three guns and a shikara from them. The cases have been referred to court for proceedings under the law.
The birds start their return leg of their voyage by the end of January.
Hokersar, Wullar lake and other wetlands like Hygam, Shallabugh and Mirgund are the places where these migratory birds spent time bringing cheer to bird watchers of the valley.